COVID on campus

Antigen testing and current case rates

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The news column “COVID on campus” posts relevant COVID-19 news every week for UWEC students.

Most media and news updates today usually have something to do with the international pandemic known as COVID-19.

There is a lot of information out there and knowing what information is most relevant can be difficult.

COVID on campus is a running update on COVID-19 news for UW-Eau Claire students and will lay out relevant news every week to help keep the confusion at bay. 

Sometimes, this may be about news on campus. Other times, this may be about national or international progress toward a vaccine.

This week, COVID on campus will cover the general status of the UW-Eau Claire campus and possibly clear up some confusion on what a student should do if they suspect they have COVID-19.

In a preemptive measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at UW-Eau Claire, administration has set up antigen testing for students living on-campus, Jodi Thesing-Ritter, the executive director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, said.

“When a student tests positive for the antigen test, then we send them to (Student) Health Services,” Thesing-Ritter said. “Then they take the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test.” 

Warren Anderson, the Vice Chancellor of EDI, was unavailable to comment.

According to the U.S. Drug and Food Association, the antigen test is considered to be a type of diagnostic test. Diagnostic tests will verify if someone has an active coronavirus infection. The PCR test is also a diagnostic test; however, this test is a type of diagnostic test known as a molecular test.

The FDA considers the PCR test to be highly accurate, whereas sometimes the antigen tests can result in negatives, but possibly require later molecular testing. 

The antigen testing — set up in the McPhee Physical Education Center — tests residents on a rotating schedule, which will end up being approximately every three weeks, Ritter said. 

Upon entering McPhee, students fill out a form where they must disclose whether or not they have symptoms, have had known contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or if they’re under investigation for COVID-19.

The COVID-19 dashboard shows the positive test results of PCR tests, not antigen tests. Currently, the total and cumulative number of positive COVID-19 student cases rests at 213. This number is from SHS and the Eau Claire City-County Health Department reports.

As of Sept. 15, there have been a total of 1,149 PCR tests given at SHS, with 141 positive results and a positivity rate of 12.3 percent. 

The Eau Claire City-County Health Department has an additional 52 reported student cases from Sept.1 through Sept. 5. 

In order to live on campus, residents must take the antigen test, Thesing-Ritter said. 

“I’ve been getting calls and emails from parents and students if the test is required,” Thesing-Ritter said. “Yes, the UW system is requiring (it) as a condition of living on campus.”

If students have symptoms — including lack of taste or smell, fever, cough and sore throat — they should go to SHS and take the PCR tests, Thesing-Ritter said.

“They should not come to the antigen site,” Thesing-Ritter said. “We’ll actually send them away to go to health services for their appointments.”

To schedule a PCR test appointment at SHS, students should call 715-836-5360 or email [email protected]   
Spierings can be reached at [email protected].